Are women better mindreaders? Sex differences in neural correlates of mentalizing detected with functional MRI

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Paper (help)
Are women better mindreaders? sex differences in neural correlates of mentalizing detected with functional MRI
Authors: Sören Krach, Isabelle Blümel, Dominic Marjoram, Tineke Lataster, Lydia Krabbendam, Jochen Weber, Jim van Os, Tilo Kircher
Citation: BMC Neuroscience 10 : 9. 2009
Database(s): PubMed (PMID/19193204)
DOI: 10.1186/1471-2202-10-9.
Link(s): http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2202/10/9
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Are women better mindreaders? sex differences in neural correlates of mentalizing detected with functional MRI reports a functional magnetic resonance imaging study on mentalizing (Theory of Mind)

Contents

[edit] Abstract from paper (CC-BY)

[edit] Background

The ability to mentalize, i.e. develop a Theory of Mind (ToM), enables us to anticipate and build a model of the thoughts, emotions and intentions of others. It has long been hypothesised that women differ from men in their mentalizing abilities. In the present fMRI study we examined the impact of (1) gender (women vs. men) and (2) game partner (human vs. computer) on ToM associated neural activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. Groups of men (n = 12) and women (n = 12) interacted in an iterated classical prisoner's dilemma forced choice situation with alleged human and computer partners who were outside the scanner.

[edit] Results

Both the conditions of playing against putative human as well as computer partners led to activity increases in mPFC, ACC and rTPJ, constituting the classic ToM network. However, mPFC/ACC activity was more pronounced when participants believed they were playing against the alleged human partner. Differences in the medial frontal lobe activation related to the sex of the participants could be demonstrated for the human partner > computer partner contrast.

[edit] Conclusion

Our data demonstrate differences in medial prefrontal brain activation during a ToM task depending on both the gender of participants and the game partner.

[edit] Subjects

Subject group #1 (help)
Germans
Subjects/♂/♀: 24 / 12 / 12
Age: 27.4 (–)
Nationality: German
Approval: Local ethics committee
Databases:

Group 1 of 24 germans with 12 males and 12 females were included in the study. The German group had a mean age of 27.4. The study on the human subjects was approved by the Local ethics committee.

[edit] Results

The neuroimages were analyzed with SPM2 and normalized into MNI space, but the coordinates are reported in Talairach space after conversion with the Brett-transformation. The statistical threshold are on p<0.001 uncorrected with a cluster extent threshold on 6 voxels, which are stated to correct at p<0.05 level.

[edit] Effects of game partner for females (human partner versus baseline)

Table 2, part 4 with 2 coordinates

Anatomy
BA
x
y
z
No. vox
t
z
Coordinate search
Plot
1 Left inferior parietal lobule 39/40 48 -45 28 83 8.87 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
1 Left superior frontal gyrus (medial part) Left supplementary motor area 6/10 0 25 39 14 8.17 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
Entry not completed (help)

[edit] Effects of game partner for females (computer partner versus baseline)

Table 2, part 4 with 2 coordinates.

Anatomy
BA
x
y
z
No. vox
t
z
Coordinate search
Plot
1 Left middle frontal gyrus 8 48 37 31 23 10.22 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
2 Left inferior parietal gyrus 39/40 51 -44 43 97 8.94 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
Entry not completed (help)

[edit] Male (person versus computer)

Table 3, part 1 with 15 coordinates. [1]

Anatomy
BA
x
y
z
No. vox
t
z
Coordinate search
Plot
Entry not completed (help)

[edit] Female (person versus computer)

Table 3, part 2 with 9 coordinates. [2]

Anatomy
BA
x
y
z
No. vox
t
z
Coordinate search
Plot
1 L/R Superior Frontal Gyrus (medial part) 10/9 12 59 23 40 10.58 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
2 16 56 34 5.77 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
3 -4 51 20 5.57 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
4 R Middle Temporal Gyrus, R Angular Gyrus 40/39 59 -53 21 21 8.43 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
5 51 -61 25 4.85 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
6 L Cerebellar Cortex -32 -79 -30 10 6.86 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
7 R Posterior Cingulate Cortex 31 -8 -45 35 15 5.91 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
8 0 -49 36 5.61 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
9 -8 -44 43 4.53 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
Entry not completed (help)

[edit] Male versus female (person versus computer)

Table 3, part 3 with 2 coordinates

Anatomy
BA
x
y
z
No. vox
t
z
Coordinate search
Plot
1 Right anterior cingulate cortex/Left superior frontal gyrus (medial part) 32 8 39 5 11 5.30 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
1 Left cerebellar cortex -28 -71 -20 7 4.40 Brede Database Brede Wiki NeuroSynth SumsDB Not available
Entry not completed (help)

[edit] Critique

  1. P-values are uncorrected, though with cluster correction on 6 voxels. The t-values are quite high and one should have thought that corrected p-values would have shown significant changes.
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